India dismisses allegations of abusive conditions at shrimp farms

India has emerged as one of the world’s largest shrimp exporters.
| Photo Credit: AP

India, now the biggest supplier of America’s favourite seafood — shrimps — has strongly refuted allegations of human rights and environmental abuses raised by a Chicago-based human rights group, and top Commerce Ministry officials will meet seafood exporters on Thursday to discuss efforts to scotch such attempts at maligning its global reputation.

In 2022-23, India’s seafood exports stood at $8.09 billion or ₹64,000 crore and shrimps accounted for a bulk of these exports at $5.6 billion. India has emerged as one of the world’s largest shrimp exporters and its share in the U.S. market has risen from 21% or $1.3 billion to 40% in 2022-23 with shipments worth $2.4 billion, far ahead of rivals like Thailand, China, Vietnam and Ecuador.

Terming a report from Corporate Accountability Lab (CAL) that alleges working conditions in some shrimp hatcheries, growing ponds and peeling sheds, as baseless, a senior official asserted the entire value chain for India’s shrimp exports is certified by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) and there is no scope for such concerns about overseas shipments. “This seems to be driven by vested interests aimed at maligning the reputation of our aquaculture sector and its products in global markets,” he noted.

About a lakh shrimp farms in Andhra Pradesh alone account for almost 70% of India’s shrimp output. Women are reckoned to account for 70% of the 8 million-odd jobs in the sector, including two lakh in hatcheries and aquaculture farms and the rest in processing and freezing units.

The Ministry, which aims to scale up seafood exports to ₹1 lakh crore by 2025-26, is likely to advise exporters to commission independent studies on the working conditions at shrimp farms to dispel the concerns in major markets like the U.S. and EU. It has also asked the Andhra Pradesh government to look into the allegations made in the CAL report, such as workers facing ‘dangerous and abusive conditions’.

“The CAL report selectively highlights isolated instances without verifying their authenticity and attempts to generalise the practices observed in India’s shrimp farming and processing sector,” an MPEDA official added. Apart from regulatory agencies in India which regularly monitor the shrimp value chain, there are also audits by inspectors of the USFDA, European Commission and the GAC of China, so there is full compliance with international regulations, he underlined.

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